An artificial opening at Swan Lake was carried out by members of the public on 12 January 2022. NSW Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries were alerted and will be enacting their compliance functions. Council Rangers have also been in the area carrying out investigations as the artificial opening of the lake is an illegal activity as these works were not carried out in relation to the water trigger levels and Entrance Management Policy (EMP).
The intervention works created a 20-30-metre-wide channel, which poses a public safety risk. People need to be made aware of the danger this has created. The channel, when opened by natural means or by Council (under licensed conditions in accordance with the EMP), is located to the south adjoining the rock platform. This does not typically create a channel like the one that has formed from the recent artificial intervention.
Pending rainfall and tidal behaviours, it is expected that the sand bar will re-establish in four to eight weeks and return Swan Lake back to its natural form. The entrance cannot be closed using any further artificial intervention. In the meantime, signs have been posted by Council to alert the public to the swimming hazard.
Shoalhaven City Council Manager of Environment Services, Dr Michael Roberts said, “This channel, between Swan Lake and the ocean, has resulted in the lake artificially opening at too low a water level and in unsuitable conditions. This may lead to significant adverse environmental impacts on Swan Lake, such as low oxygen levels, associated fish kills as well as a significant swimming hazard.”
“It is an offence to open coastal lakes, or lagoons, using machinery or by hand, without a licence and could result in penalties of up to $220,000 per offence.” Dr Roberts stated.
Council operates an Entrance Management Policy for Swan Lake, and other coastal lakes in the Shoalhaven region, with licenses from various State Government Agencies.
This Policy allows Council to mechanically open Swan Lake to the ocean with an excavator to prevent flooding of low-lying properties surrounding the lake when the water level rises, typically following a large rainfall event, to a specific trigger level.